Post 4: Burundi, a cheetah and effective health investments


1. Find a ‘cheetah’ in your country (person or organization) and show his/her/its work that helps the country move towards protection of human rights, free speech, systems of accountability, reducing poverty, etc.

The Burundi Friends International (BFI) group is working to help the country move towards putting an end to poverty. Their mission focuses on “fighting poverty, educating youth and providing hope.” The group believes that in order to make a lasting solution, they can’t simply give handouts to people living in the country. Instead, they need to provide a solution through education and economic empowerment. An example of work that the Burundi Friends International is doing is the “Project Goat”. In June 2013, the group worked with the International Women’s Coffee Association’s Burundi chapter to support women farmers. The women were given two goats to produce manure that fertilizes the coffee plants, as well as providing milk and cheese for their kids. BFI has already seen results, as the profits the women have raised have been used to pay for their children’s medical expenses and school tuition. The group has also helped set up a microfinance organization for 50 women who lost all of their belongings in a fire. Both through projects, as well as the groups’ mission, you can see that Burundi Friends International is a ‘cheetah’ in Burundi and is helping the citizens move toward a more sustainable, less impoverished country.


2. Chapter 3 of Radelet’s Emerging Africa talks extensively about democracy building as well as discusses how one defines democracy, what is elemental and how are democracies ranked and judged. How does your country rank? 

The Think Tank Freedom House scores Burundi very low on the freedom score, at a 19 out of 100. Burundi is not free, as it ranks 6.5 out 7 with 7 meaning completely not free. One of the biggest reasons for the downward trend in the civil liberties rating is due to President Pierre Nkurunziza. He recently ran for a third term in the country after being elected by Parliament, rather than through a popular vote. There were many public protests, including assassinations, arrests, torture of government critics and attacks that followed his decision. The government shut down most of the private media outlets in the country and “stepped up surveillance of citizens.” The country is moving away from any definition of democracy. UN observers found that the voting (that was recently boycotted) was neither free nor credible. Other freedoms are also on the decline. Freedoms of expression, association and assembly have been severely restricted, as the government has moved to quiet naysayers. Several NGOs have been suspended, including some working on improved human rights issues. A main university in the country has been closed as well. In Burundi, democracy is not building; rather, it is moving in the opposite direction.


3. What are effective health investments?

Banerjee and Duflo discuss many effective health investments in Poor Economics. One of the biggest problems is a lack of access to clean water and sanitation. Nearly 13% of our world’s population suffers from a lack to access to a water source like a well or tap and about ¼ of the population does not have access to safe drinking water. An improvement in access to clean water would have an impact on other health problems as well. Once people have clean water, problems like infant mortality and overall mortality decrease. Furthermore, poor water quality can cause other major illnesses like malaria, so it’s important to not only have access to water, but also be able to know it’s safe for consumption. As with other investments, a main issue preventing access to water is money. Many people suffering from a lack of water cannot afford to pipe water into their homes or buy chlorine tablets to purify the water they do obtain. Studies have also found that even when chlorine tablets are offered at a highly discounted price, people are often not willing to buy the product. This is a problem that other poor countries face regarding healthcare – the money that is spent on health is spent on expensive cures rather than cheap prevention. So, while there are countless reasons to invest in effective health treatments, the people on the receiving end must also want the support.


Economic Empowerment

Poor Economics, Banerjee, Duflo




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